An Italian flag flies over Rome's Monument of Vittorio Emanuele II

Vatican paper calls for “urgent reset” on Italian political, social crisis

The editor of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano has called for an “urgent reset” in Italian politics and social life in the midst of the chaos caused by former Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini’s desertion of the governing coalition.

Driving the news

In an editorial published Wednesday on the Vatican News website, editor Andrea Monda took on Salvini’s infamous mixing of religious symbols with far-right political slogans.

Monda said Salvini’s showboating could easily be condemned on the strength of the words of Jesus in Matthew 6-7, where Christ invites believers to show their faith “in secret” and not on “street corners”.

But the editor of L’Osservatore went deeper, and asked:

“How did it come to this?”

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Go deeper

Monda blamed the present political crisis in Italy, first of all, on problems in the country’s education system.

For decades education in Italy has been reduced “to a form of mere guidance and rule ‘from above’ and this change of meaning has affected both politics and the Catholic Church, which have forgotten that educating is essential as a first step towards listening”.

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“People have not been listened to”, Monda lamented.

Not only that, but for years in Italy “a social structure has been established that has made any reference to the religious dimension superfluous”.

It is for that reason that the guiding light in Italy today is “the economic and technological principle that inevitably pushes towards a despotic individualism, stripping all sense of belonging, especially if it is linked to the religious sphere considered as a folk remnant of ancient times, basically ‘dark’ and superstitious”.

This sidelining of religion in the country means that religious symbols have lost their real meaning.

“Religious symbols have betrayed their own nature: although ‘sym-bol’ means what unites, today we are witnessing a break between those who see them with discomfort and dislike and try to expel them from social life and those who cling to those symbols as a fetish with a strong identity value that, however, runs the risk of betraying the meaning they represent”, Monda denounced.

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Why it matters

Italy could solve its political crisis with a new vote or a new government, the L’Osservatore editor pointed out.

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But, in either case, “the real crisis, the one that has its roots in the daily, real life of the Italians, will not be addressed at all”, Monda warned.

To get at the heart of the matter, the journalist proposed first of all that the country’s Church have the “courage” to undertake “profound self-criticism” to address its past failure to listen and to embrace what Pope Francis calls the “synodal” -that is, consultative- dimension of Catholicism.

But secular society must take care too, added Monda, that it not “snobbishly liquidate in the name of a misunderstood rationalism everything that concerns the religious sphere”.

Such banishing “impoverishes the human experience” and creates the conditions necessary for the “extremes” of secular fanaticism and religious fundamentalism, Monda warned.

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What’s next

Between these two extremes, the Church “must continue to navigate”, as it has done throughout its history, the journalist said.

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“This tangled crisis in Italian politics can (and should) be an opportunity for a severe reflection on the past in view of an urgent restart from the basics, that is, from listening to people and their needs and, therefore, from education”, he explained.

It is “a restart that Italy needs dramatically”, Monda declared.

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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.